NEW YORK ─ A recent physician survey conducted by Quest Diagnostics suggests strong interest among doctors in blood-based testing for Alzheimer's disease.
For the report, which was released Monday, the lab company surveyed 501 primary care providers to assess their attitudes toward blood-based Alzheimer's testing and found that large majorities are interested in using blood-based tests for the detection and monitoring of the disease and believe that such tests will play a major role in the future.
Blood-based testing for Alzheimer's disease has drawn significant interest and investment in recent years as the medical community looks for less expensive and less invasive ways to diagnose the condition. PET imaging and cerebrospinal fluid assays are currently the most common modes of evaluating patients suspected of having Alzheimer's, but the former is expensive, typically costing in the thousands of dollars, while the latter involves a spinal tap, which some patients are reluctant to undergo and which doctor's may be hesitant to perform in a screening context.
Demand for blood-based tests is also likely to grow as drugs for treating the condition come to market. Blood-based testing can potentially provide an effective approach for screening patients for the condition and eligibility for treatment, as well as for monitoring the effectiveness of therapy.
Among the doctors surveyed in the Quest report, 87 percent said they believed blood tests for detecting risk of Alzheimer's "will increasingly become the standard of care," while 81 percent said they will "revolutionize" monitoring for the disease, and 94 percent said that blood tests would prove more cost effective for detecting Alzheimer's then methods like lumbar puncture. More than three quarters of those surveyed also said they believed that blood tests would allow for "more equitable care and management of the disease."
The survey results also suggest, though, that education and guideline development as well as reimbursement will be key to driving uptake of blood-based testing. For instance, more than 70 percent of physicians surveyed said they would want guidelines establishing best practices for when and how to use such tests, including how to use it in combination with other Alzheimer's diagnostics; how to interpret negative results in patients where cognitive function is a concern; and how to counsel patients and families about both the decision to test and test results.
Roughly 1 in 4 doctors said that they would not use blood testing in preventive health visits without "specific guidelines telling them when and under what circumstances to do so."
Reimbursement will also be key, with 85 percent of doctors saying that the value of an Alzheimer's blood test "will depend on how widely reimbursed it is."
Along with the release of the report, Secaucus, New Jersey-based Quest introduced its Quest AD-Detect Amyloid Beta 42/40 Ratio, a laboratory-developed test that measures the levels of the Aβ42 and Aβ40 peptides in patient plasma to assess the risk of Alzheimer's. With the launch of the test, the company joins other firms that are either selling or developing blood-based Alzheimer's tests, including St. Louis-based C2N Diagnostics, Norwegian firm Pre Diagnostics, and South Korean diagnostics company Speclipse.